Rome, Italy

Look at that, would you? That’s a View From My Table at lunch today in Rome. It’s fettucine Alfredo served and eaten at … Alfredo alla Scrofa. No kidding, this was taken in the restaurant that created the famous dish. Everyone at my table had it. The waiter prepares it tableside, and ladles it out onto plates. The head of the table gets the portion on the plate where it was made. In this case, my gracious host, Antonio Palmieri, let me have it.

Yes, reader, it tasted as cheesy and buttery as it looks. It was very heaven.

After lunch, another of my hosts, Lorenzo Malagola, the general secretary of the De Gasperi Foundation, took me for a short walk around the neighborhood on his way back to work. What a neighborhood!

We dropped into one of my favorite Rome places, the Sant’Eustachio coffee shop. Here, Lorenzo enjoys something I didn’t know existed. You can order a little cup of nothing but foam from coffee. It’s cool and almost the consistency of a light pudding. It’s amazing, like feeling a butterfly brush your face with its wings. A butterfly made of coffee and cream, I mean:

After I told Lorenzo goodbye, I walked over to the Piazza Navona, and went to pray at the altar of St. Agnes, a 13-year-old virgin who was martyred under Diocletian in the early 4th century. You can see her skull in the reliquary. I ambled over — if “ambled” is the right word for walking through steamy Rome in a gray suit on a late summer day — to the church of St. Augustine, to see the Caravaggio and to pray for a friend before the tomb of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine. Rome is that kind of place.

Then I walked over to the church of St. Louis King of France to pray for a French friend who has been suffering health problems, and to pray for my son Matthew at the St. Matthew chapel, where Caravaggio’s famous “The Calling Of St. Matthew” hangs. Caravaggio’s “The Inspiration of St. Matthew” is also in the chapel, directly over the altar. I observed that the Angel was making white supremacist hand signals, and I made a note to write to Think Progress when I get back to the US to get them on the case:

Finally, I swung by the Pantheon, but didn’t like the crowd there, then stepped over to the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, to visit the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena. I stopped to pray for the Catholic Church’s cleansing — Catherine told Pope Gregory XI in a 1376 letter to man up and do right — and, as this is a Dominican church, also to put in a good word with the Lord for the Dominicans in Washington.

After that I was wo’ slap out, and took a taxi back to my hotel over by the Vatican. Traffic was a mess, so I had the driver put me out near the St. Paul bookstore, as St. Paul is my publisher in Italy. I found a copy of Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Salt Of The Earth,” and a Dante book. I got a little turned around trying to find my way back to the hotel, and ended up in St. Peter’s Square. Which is a pretty swell place.

At last I made it back to the hotel. After a shower and some e-mail time, I walked back over to St. Peter’s after dark to meet a friend who lives here, and then we went to dinner. I wish we could have talked all night.

In the morning, I’m having a breakfast meeting with a journalist friend, then going over to visit Eduard Habsburg, the Hungarian ambassador to the Vatican. Will be on an afternoon train to Bologna, where I’ll be doing some more Ben Op stuff, this time with the Archbishop of the city — who, I’m told, is a wonderful man. Plus, I hear that they know how to eat very well in Emilia-Romagna. I went all day without eating gelato here in Rome, just so you know how militantly ascetic Your Working Boy is. Yay me.

Note to self: come back here in the winter, when it’s bearable outside, and you have time to walk s-l-o-w-l-y through the palimpsest, absorbing as much as you can.